At last, common sense has prevailed
While the manner in which the Sports Minister, Mr Solomon Dalung, went about seeking equity with unclean hands cannot in anyway promote accountability or transparency in soccer administration, it is heartwarming that the federal government has finally stepped in on the side of common sense. But both Dalung and the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, must be condemned for trying to use a contrived court order to install an interloper as the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) President and in the process put our country to ridicule.
For two weeks, there were two ‘presidents’ at the NFF after Mr Chris Giwa forcefully took over the NFF secretariat, holding court with his ‘board members’ while Mr Amaju Pinnick was away in Russia for the World Cup. Instructively, a government that is notorious for disobeying valid court orders quickly obeyed one it contrived to achieve a predetermined outcome. But sanity eventually prevailed when, apparently at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, security men invaded the NFF to eject Giwa and his fellow travellers. But the whole farcical drama should never have been allowed in the first place.
Since FIFA has always recognised Pinnick as the validly elected president of NFF, the action of Dalung aided by Malami was considered an act of interference by the federal government and a gross violation of the international football statutes to which Nigeria is a signatory. Associate members of FIFA cannot refer football matters to ordinary courts. Such matter can only be resolved via internal mechanism or in the worst case, through the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) based in Switzerland.
It is instructive that Giwa lost at CAS and was banned from all football activities when he referred the matter for arbitration. Besides, FIFA actually annulled the election held on 26th August 2014 at Chida Hotel, Abuja which Giwa claimed he won. According to FIFA, the meeting was a non-elective congress to discuss the electoral template. It also said many of the delegates that assembled in Abuja were not the real football stakeholders as the real delegates were hounded on the eve of the election by security agents. And the credibility of the entire process was questioned given there was no FIFA observer around to supervise the exercise.
The then FIFA Secretary General, Mr. Jérôme Valcke, had disowned “the persons who claim to have been elected during the so-called elective general assembly,” adding: “as a consequence, we will not recognise the outcome of the above mentioned elections and should there still be persons claiming to have been elected and occupying the NFF offices at midnight on Monday 1 September 2014, we will bring the case to the appropriate FIFA body for sanctions, which may include the suspension of the NFF.”
In part, the crisis has been allowed to fester due to the subterfuge and open support for the Giwa faction by both the current sports minister and his predecessor. But now that the matter has been resolved on the side of common sense, we hope that they will allow peace to reign. There are many issues the NFF has to deal with though the most urgent is the allegation of bribery against Super Eagles coach, Mr Salisu Yusuf. Yusuf was captured on camera receiving cash from journalists posing as football agents for two players seeking to be selected for a major tournament.
Meanwhile, the sports minister must not allow any shenanigan to cripple the conduct of the forthcoming NFF election scheduled for September. It is expected that he should be sufficiently contrite to seek genuine means of extricating Nigerian football from the damaging course he was bent on taking it.